2018 Tesla Model 3

2018 Tesla Model 3

Auto Value and Bumper to BumperTire Rack "The Way Tire Buying Should Be"

Tesla is a car company unlike any other; doing business more like a tech startup than an automotive brand. That’s served them well for their high priced S sedan and X utility. But, things have not gone smoothly for the entry-level Model 3. Still, they are coming out of the factory in decent numbers now, so its high time to find out if it’s a must have gadget, or truly the car of tomorrow…today. 

It’s fitting that Tesla chose Model 3 as the name for their entry-level EV, as they are looking to do for battery electric sedans what the BMW 3 Series has done for sport sedans, become the new benchmark for others to follow. 

Other than lacking an upper grille slot, the compact Model 3 bares a strong resemblance to the larger Model S. Its slick front end leads to a very big windshield; where the arching roofline flows hatchback-like to a very short rear deck and tall back end. 

Body panel fitment is not as great as what you’d find in the typical luxury car, let alone a Hyundai Elantra; but we hear improvements are being made as production continues to ramp up. 

The interior is surprisingly pleasant; new era minimalism at its finest. Just a long linear dash with air vents, a steering wheel with two stalks, and a horizontal touch screen jutting out of that IP. No buttons, dials, knobs, to be found, save for some programmable scroll wheels on the steering wheel.

All info is displayed on that 15-inch center video panel, and there’s a wealth of it; however, it is fixed and cannot be tilted towards the driver, requiring you to take your eyes off the road a lot. Making things worse, there’s quite often a glare on the screen that keeps you from seeing it clearly. 

All seating positions are rather comfortable; and both rear and front trunks offer plenty of space for storage. 

On the road, the ride is well composed, with a solidly tight but not jarring ride. It indeed drives much like a European sport sedan.

Our test car came courtesy of local owner Bill Clarke, and the excellent driving experience is his favorite aspect of the car.

BILL CLARKE: “The Model 3 is a great vehicle as a driving vehicle; it feels tight, responsive, very powerful. The handling is similar to a BMW in my opinion; I like that nice, tight German feel to a car. The power is almost as much as the Model S that I had previously, so a nice quick responsive car.” 

JOHN DAVIS: There is a somewhat noisy rear suspension, mostly noticeable because of the lack of engine noise. But, Bill’s right on; with an output of 271-horsepower the Model 3 is quite fast. A typical 0-60 run takes about 5.0-seconds. 

There’s also lots of windshield to look through, giving you a wide angle view of all that lies ahead. And, with our car’s Premium Package, the full length glass roof means everyone on board can sight see.

This rear-driver also had the Long Range battery pack, which is the only one available right now. Tesla doesn’t provide exact specs, but it is rated in the neighborhood of 70-kWh. Base 50-kWh models, as well as twin-motor all-wheel-drive versions, will be added into the production mix later this year.

There’s 310 miles of range with the bigger battery, so we’d go with that. Range for the base model is 220-miles. 

Just as in its larger kin, the Model 3’s charging port is integrated into the driver’s side tail light cluster. Still cool, no matter how many times we see it. 

We are definitely not sold however, on the no key aspect. We actually had an app snafu with our test car, and even the backup proximity card wouldn’t let us get the car started quickly. 

The government gives the Model 3 MPGe Ratings of 136-City, 123-Highway, and 130-Combined. For a near perfect Energy Impact Score, responsible for just 2/10 of a barrel of oil use annually and zero CO2 emissions. 

The $35,000 mass market Model 3 that garnered all of the original hype and down payments has yet to emerge. Only the bigger battery model is available right now. That means with other extras like the Premium Package and Auto Pilot, this “3” can easily top $50,000. So, it’s still mostly an early adopter proposition.  

Still, the 2018 Tesla Model 3 is the best convergence of high technology and the practical automobile that we’ve yet seen. And, it does drive great! Yet, it remains to be seen if it truly is the game changing car of the future. But, one thing is for sure; it is here right now, and will be the populous EV benchmark for years to come.   

Super Truckin'

Super Truckin’

Episode 4309
Auto Value and Bumper to BumperTire Rack "The Way Tire Buying Should Be"

Heavy duty trucks transport about 70% of our goods and materials around the country and account for 10% of all miles driven on US highways. The bad news is, most big rigs travel about 6 miles per gallon of fuel, so the need to improve truck efficiency is more crucial than ever. Well, the US Department of Energy has come up with a way to find those answers.

Kicking off in 2010 and now entering its third iteration, SuperTruck is a Department of Energy-funded research program aimed at helping truck makers achieve ambitious gains in freight efficiency, or ton-miles per gallon, for the next generation of big rigs.

SuperTruck 2, which is now wrapping up, focused on diesel engines, which still, and will, power most trucks for the near future. Several teams were able to incorporate 48-volt mild hybrid systems to enable idle reduction, power the hotel loads, or driver comfort systems, and convert belt-driven accessories, like steering, to electric power, eliminating drag on the engine for more efficient operation. SuperTruck 3 will explore electric and fuel cell power trains over the next few years.

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DEREK ROTZ: “As we move forward into research, we’re looking into zero emissions, and the benefits of working with the Department of Energy is not only getting a– a 50/50 cost share to allow us to share the resources on these high risk/high reward technologies, but it also opens us up to the possibility to work with the national lab systems, the university systems, and those folks that have been looking at those cutting edge– edge technologies for years.”

The result has been a super-charged R&D effort that is already paying huge dividends. One SuperTruck 2 team has achieved 16 miles per gallon, 10 more than the current on-road average, and all are on track to surpass the 100% freight efficiency goal, some reaching as much as 170% improvement.

DAREK VILLENEUVE: “We’ve looked at all aspects with an eye towards production. We don’t want to develop things off in a science box that had no means, we really want to look at things that did have a good chance for production.”

Looking at all of these futuristic designs, it’s obvious that lightweighting and aerodynamics play a big part. Technology like rearview cameras and extensive wind tunnel testing has found ways to make the big box less boxy, minimize body gaps, and improve airflow.

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KEITH BRANDIS: “When you look at aero, it takes a number of factors that we have to stretch, if you will, and that was the whole purpose, was to see how far we could go with extreme aero, and you’ll see all the skirting along the side of the vehicle, but also to lower the vehicle and use low profile tires, to eliminate the amount of air that builds up around the front air dam.”

Both Peterbilt and Kenworth’s extreme aero designs build around a center seating position to allow a narrow nose. While Navistar’s sleek rig includes a curved trailer roof to maximize clean airflow across the full length. With aerodynamic gains now almost exceeding the realm of what’s possible, looking forward the R&D focus will shift back to the power train, and the target of zero emissions.

DEREK ROTZ: “So… So, decarbonizing commercial vehicles is no easy task. Uh, we’ve been at diesel for over a century now, we’ve kind of perfected it. Going into these zero emissions technologies is a whole new field, so–so it’s learning about new technologies, new technical fields such as electro-chemistry, um, things like that are new to this industry, and those are some of the barriers we need to be able to overcome.”

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Here is where collaboration and innovation come into play. All of these manufacturers are up for the challenge and optimistic that zero-emission trucks will be viable not too far down the road.

MAARTEN MEIJER: “Solutions that we see as opportunities are the fuel cell electric vehicles, the hydrogen combustion engine vehicles, and the hybrid powertrains using the more traditional diesel engine concept, but switching to an e-fuel approach.”

So, what’s the bottom line of all this effort? Supertruck-developed technologies can save nearly 6 billion barrels of oil by 2050. To the average truck owner, that could ring up $35,000 a year in fuel savings! And that adds up to environmental and financial savings that benefit all of us in the long haul!

Celebrating 75 Years of Porsche

Celebrating 75 Years of Porsche

Episode 4308
Auto Value and Bumper to BumperTire Rack "The Way Tire Buying Should Be"

Porsche builds incredibly fun-to-drive automobiles! And for 43 seasons, we’ve spent as much of our time driving them as possible. Well, this year Porsche is celebrating its own 75 years of motoring excellence, and when we were invited to a round-up of many of their most amazing efforts…how could we possibly say no?

ALEX KELLUM: I used to think introducing a brand-new Porsche model was hard. After all, what can I say that hasn’t already been said? But then I realized, for the very same reason, it’s easy to introduce them. One mention of the name ‘Porsche’ and their legacy sorta speaks for itself.

And that legacy is what led me across the “Big Drink” to Stuttgart, Germany, to help celebrate an important birthday and milestone for Porsche.

75 years, as a matter of fact. So, I got the invite, you’re the plus-one. Let’s go back in time to drive some of Porsche’s greatest hits.

And what better way to start the day than with two 911’s? I left the grounds of Porsche’s secret storage facility in this not-so-stealthy rear-engine prototype: a 1992 911 Carrera 2 Coupe Clubsport.

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It was made to slot in between the Carrera 2 and Carrera RS. That means motorsports-oriented, yet completely street legal. So, while it added front bucket seats and ditched the rears, it still kept some creature comforts like air conditioning. Even for a hand-built prototype, the Carrera 2 Clubsport was solid.

“This thing is just a treat to drive. If this is how I’m starting the day, I can’t wait to see what’s next.”

Unfortunately, it never saw production.

So, I followed it up with one that did, albeit just 189 units: The Carrera 3.2 Coupe Clubsport.

This one does forgo amenities like AC, and power windows, and even the passenger sun visor for maximum weight-savings. Lighter engine components too, for a 6,840 RPM redline that, along with lower suspension and a limited-slip diff, crafted a truly tethered driving experience.

“The sounds of shifting the gears…all the bumps in the road. You can feel every little bit. But it’s not…it’s not unbearable. I mean, that’s what you want in a car like this anyway. You want to feel, and hear, and smell and, well, probably not taste; but, you wanna feel all the feels.”

Celebrating 75 Years of Porsche 5

As fun and historically significant as these Carreras were, the 911 is just the most obvious layer of Porsche’s history. Digging deeper meant a late morning cruise in this 356 Super 90.

This thing was old-school cool, sporting an air-cooled 4-cylinder boxer making a carbureted 90 horsepower, give or take.

My hour behind the wheel gave credence to the 911’s origins. The Super 90 gracefully blended driver’s engagement with a surprising sense of comfort, putting me at ease while strolling between pockets of civilization.

And then it was time to kick things up a notch: this 1988 Porsche 959. The 959 became Porsche’s technological benchmark when it first launched, thanks in part to its 444 horsepower biturbo boxer-six powering an electronically-controlled all-wheel drive system. Combined with the iconic aerodynamic styling and the 80’s sci-fi-esque cabin, I was starstruck.

“You know, we come all the way out here and we talk about legacy, right? You know, we’re talking about the history of this brand and the evolution of it and what it means to have the Porsche crest proudly stamped on the hood or anywhere else on the car. And, while there are a lot of great examples of that here, the 959 is certainly up there.”

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After the 959, there was one more I just had to check out: this 944 Turbo Cabriolet. The front-engine 944 has always had a special place in my heart, if not for most Porsche-files. A boxy exterior that screams 80’s performance accented by the coolest thing ever made…pop-up headlights. Jokes aside, to me, the 944 is the still-attainable classic Porsche, so experiencing one for myself was a dream come true. As was the case with just about everything else I drove that day. Icons, bucket-listers, mold-breakers. Each one, undeniably, a true Porsche.

And after a day spent with all of them, all I can really say is, if this is what Porsche has accomplished after 75 years, I can’t wait to see what they do at 100.